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Our Storied History

Portland’s most storied hotel, Sentinel, is located in two historic downtown Portland buildings – the former Seward Hotel (now Sentinel’s East Wing) and Portland’s former Elks Lodge (now the West Wing).

The story begins with the Seward Hotel. Built in 1909, following the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition, the Seward was a boutique hotel designed by William Christmas Knighton, a visionary architect. A true innovator, Knighton was the first known Oregonian architect to use Viennese-influenced Early Modern and modified Arts and Crafts styles in his design, pioneering the use of fully glazed terra cotta for the exterior of the building. With robot-like sentinels adorning the roofline, the building is considered one of the most daring and inventive ever built in Oregon.

The Seward continued to live up to its forward-thinking reputation. It became the go-to spot for the movers and shakers in the state’s emerging timber and mining industries. Here, ideas came to life, partnerships were formed, and deals were made. In the building’s next chapter, it was rechristened the Governor Hotel in 1932 and transitioned to a residential hotel shortly after WWII. From the 1950s to the 1970s, the building was home to Atiyeh & Bros. carpet store and, in the mid-1980′s, it made history when it was designated a National Historic Landmark. Shortly thereafter it had a brief life as the workplace of one of Portland’s most famous visionaries when Gus Van Sant filmed portions of My Own Private Idaho in the then-vacant building.

Following a massive, multi-year renovation the building reopened in 1992 as a boutique hotel, with the addition of the adjoining building, formerly the headquarters of Portland Elks Lodge #142. With a rich and mysterious history, the Elks Lodge was home to private dealings and secret ceremonies (imagine its intriguing stories…). The six-story terra cotta structure, complete with beautifully elegant ballrooms and meeting spaces, is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of Italian Renaissance architecture in the nation. It includes the 7,500-square-foot Governor Ballroom with 40-foot-tall Corinthian columns, the Renaissance Room featuring frescoes with caricatures of Elks board members, and an elegant black walnut-paneled library capped by a gold-leaf coffered ceiling. There’s even a vault room with bank teller windows.

Jake’s Grill, a favorite hangout of visitors, downtown creative types and pillars of the Portland community, opened in 1994 and has since become a modern Portland landmark, generating its own colorful tales and history. Jake’s Grill retains many architectural details originally designed for the lobby of the Seward Hotel, including carved wood features, the original tile floor, and a stunning stained glass dome.

In the latest chapter of its rich history, the hotel was acquired by Provenance Hotels in 2012, and has undergone an extensive renovation. We’ve renamed it Sentinel in homage to our forward-thinking guests and the robotic sentinels that grace the building’s historic roofline. Guest rooms and meeting spaces have been lovingly restored to their original grandeur. We’ve also reinvented the strikingly grand lobby, adding a Starbucks that features evening service and opened a visionary lobby lounge, Jackknife bar and eatery.

Honoring the site’s dual heritage as one of Portland’s first luxury hotels and the one-time home of the Portland Elks Lodge, Sentinel continues to serve as a meeting place for the city’s new sentinels – the visionary artists, musicians, designers, makers and doers – who flock to this verdant, rain-soaked Pacific Northwest city for entrepreneurial and artistic inspiration.